ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

(Warning - the following contains some mild SPOILERS for the not-yet-released La La Land, albeit no more than watching the trailer would offer. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise, though...)

Now, the idea that certain genres have died off in Hollywood is an old one, but not necessarily one all that supportable by facts. True, the likes of westerns, gangster movies and musicals — the vast majority of Hollywood's output for a time — are now far less common than they used to be, but they've never gone away entirely. Instead, they've become a little like the purchasing of vinyl; something that devoted fans never gave up on, and that as such have the chance to come back into vogue with the right shifts in the cultural climate. As such — and with the defiantly old-school musical La La Land currently making waves on the festival circuit — it seems time to ask:

Can La La Land Make The Old School Musical Cool Again?

[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]
[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]

After all, the film — set for wide release in the US on December 2 — has certainly been extraordinarily well-received upon its arrival at both the Venice Film Festival and the still ongoing Toronto International Film Festival (better known to its friends as TIFF). With particular praise going to the film's director, Damien Chazelle (whose last film, Whiplash, made waves at the 2015 Oscars) and the film's inevitably charming leads, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, La La Land looks to have a major shot at being this year's break out hit from the festival circuit.

Which makes a whole lot of sense, since the film is a) absolutely fantastic, and b) a remarkably faithful re-imagining of the classic 'old school' Hollywood musical (think Singin' In The Rain or Cabaret), one clearly made with a whole lot of love and respect for the genre. It is, in effect, an attempt to revive a genre long thought by many to be dead and buried — but that perhaps, as is so often the case, was simply resting its eyes.

How Could La La Land Actually Bring Back The Musical, Though?

[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]
[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]

After all, everyone loved (or loved to hate) The Artist, but silent cinema didn't suddenly make a comeback in the wake of its Oscar success. Even if La La Land is as big a breakout success as many are predicting, then — and Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress seem all-but a lock at this point — there's no guarantee that it would lead to more willingness on the part of the studios to finance musical projects.

Unless, that is, it made an extremely large amount of money at the box office. The Artist, y'see, did well at the US box office... by making $44 million dollars. Which, sadly, isn't the level of earnings typically required for studios to turn their heads and tell filmmakers to "make us one of those". Were La La Land to become a genuine breakout success, however, and earn close to — or even north of — $100 million in the US, or a large sum internationally (The Artist 'only' totaled $133 million worldwide), then there's every possibility that studios would begin to see musicals — which tend to be expensive and complicated to produce — as a viable commercial option once more. The big question that raises, though?

Could La La Land Actually Make That Much Money At The Box Office?

[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]
[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]

Well, yes, as it turns out. With the film arriving a few weeks after Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them lands in theaters, and two weeks before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives to take all the money the box office has to offer, it's currently sitting in a potentially very promising spot for breakout success. With strong reviews, and good early 'buzz', there's every chance that the movie could see similarly surprising success to last year's The Revenant (which made $183 million domestically) or Straight Outta Compton ($161 million). Were it to earn anywhere close to that much, it's entirely possible that the entire musical genre would be seen as having been reinvigorated, and that studios would suddenly be willing to take a chance on further musical projects.

Will That Actually Happen, Though?

[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]
[La la Land/Summit Entertainment]

Well, perhaps. Predicting box-office totals at this distance is typically a fool's errand, especially with movies as reliant on word of mouth and cultural momentum as La La Land is. As such, it's tough to gauge whether the film actually has a shot at mainstream success, or is simply one of those movies that everyone loves on the festival circuit, but that no-one actually goes to see in theaters. In the end, it may well come down to a pretty simple question: Will La La Land become cool?

After all, there's a pretty solid argument that for it to be successful it needs to persuade a generation that sees conventional movie musicals as inherently 'old fashioned' that they can in fact be both old-school and contemporary. That, in some ineffable, impossible to define way, they can be cool. If it manages that, then there's every chance it could be the breakout hit of the winter, and spark a resurgence in a genre that's been out of the limelight for far too long.

Want more on La La Land as you wait for December, though? Check out:

And, of course, take one last look at the film's trailer:

The big question now, though?

What do you reckon? Will La La Land help bring the old-school musical back to the 'big time', or will it crash and burn like so many other hopes and dreams in Hollywood? Let us know below!


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